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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bicycles Outnumber Dutch

AMSTERDAM -- There are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands, where each resident clocks up an average of 917 kilometers a year on two wheels.

Flat as a pancake and densely populated, the Netherlands has tried to mitigate traffic congestion by encouraging its 16 million people to travel on their 18 million bikes.

Amsterdam's central station has a multistory parking house for bikes and there are racks on every street corner. Car parking is prohibitively expensive and you are likely to have to wait five or six years for a city center resident's permit.

Many politicians, bankers and even royalty use bikes, although the famous probably do so less since a radical Islamist shot dead filmmaker Theo van Gogh while he was cycling to work in 2004.

The bike-friendly layout of the country -- crisscrossed by well-maintained cycle lanes -- means the bike is king in many urban centers.

Cars crawl along Amsterdam's narrow, canal-lined streets and pedestrians need to be eagle-eyed as cyclists flock past at breakneck speed.

The Dutch are masters at cycling while holding an umbrella and frequently chat on their mobile phones or listen to portable music players, and while many Dutch bikes look like old wrecks, the country has become a world leader in bicycle design.

Bikes fitted with small motors for the elderly are becoming increasingly popular as are collapsible models for train commuters.

Even mountain bikes are gaining ground, despite the lack of hills.